UNION CITY, Ohio — Walk through the front door of Art Sense, and one can’t help but notice two things. First is the friendly greeting from Michael Blakeley, administrative assistant, and second is the décor.
Art Sense, an adult day service program, offers services and support in a freestyle format that gives their clients the unique opportunity to make choices.
The choices are expansive, as evident by the enormity of the facility that lends plenty of room for a bevy of projects. For example, in one area is space for a computer lab, while another area offers games and puzzles, plenty of tables for the many art projects the clients tackle, a java hut, dance room, kitchen and dining area, and several areas that will be future homes to aquariums and even a pirate ship.
Yes, a pirate ship.
Upon entry to the 18,000 square foot former Ansonia Lumber building, one notes the art and creativity as to the right stands a display showcasing a shabby-chic style Alice in Wonderland tea party. A table, craftily made out of a door, is surrounded by a variety of refurbished chairs, its surface festooned with a host of decorations from picture frames to an array of teacups, book pages, clocks, decanters, even a large white painted wood birdcage.
Strands of dried grape vines and soft white lights strung across the wall behind the display encourage one to step into something akin to a dream.
Another space was decorated from a recent celebration of Cinco de Mayo complete with sombreros, paper peppers, and cactus, along with bold, bright green, red, yellow and orange colors.
What makes Art Sense unique is the fact the ADS clients are the ones behind the décor and so much more makes up their day.
For Blakeley, who is also a client, his daily task is to oversee the front desk, answering the phone, welcoming guests. He has a mind for business and assists Jessica Schiavone, director and CEO.
Upon entry, Schiavone and Blakeley are more than happy to take visitors by a painted yellow brick road to each of the various areas. Several clients were busy making cardboard sharks. Perhaps in preparation for the pending pirate ship?
“When creating Art Sense we kept in mind that different people have different attention spans and interests,” said Schiavone of the freestyle format which includes art but also teaching administrative duties like Blakely attends to each day in the offices set at the front-center of the building, the perfect spot to greet incoming guests.
Schiavone notes the yellow brick road while taking individuals to various areas of the building, also serves as a fire evacuation path.
“You have to have something for people to identify with,” explained Schiavone, who mentioned after the yellow brick road was complete she felt there was a need for a tin man. It was a comment that was quickly followed by decorating the space in the Wizard of Oz theme, complete with the well-known characters.
The clients dressed up for the Oz theme, too, said Schiavone, with the interior décor transitioning out of Art Sense and into to the community. Their work has displayed at banks, churches, libraries, and different events such as the Cinco de Mayo décor at an annual picnic with a southwestern themed meal.
The clients have created props for dance events, a vintage carnival, and even an 80’s theme event.
“It gives the clients opportunities to build relationships [in the community],” said Schiavone explaining clients, after making a decision on a theme or choosing a theme from a business they wish to support via their Karaoke Council, begin a scavenger hunt for the necessary items. They get on an Art Sense bus with a list and budget, seeking out treasures from garage sales, second-hand stores, and flea markets.
Along with themes, clients make and sell their artwork. Some can be found for sale in various businesses in downtown Greenville.
Currently, clients and staff are preparing for their Art Sensational Summer Expo slated from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 22. The expo will include a variety of artisans from authors to woodworking, primitives, and florals. Several product vendors will be onsite including Posh, Thirty-One, Mary Kay and Pampered Chef, to name a few. Along with interactive artistic and personal wellness experiences such as canvas paintings, mini hand massage, cake decorating, and photography services. Live music with 2 Crew DJ’s, Colt Douglas “Pony” and food trucks with lunch items, snacks, and beverages.
There will be inflatables, carnival games, and professional face painting.
The event is free and open to the public.
Art Sense opened in March 2014, a licensed and certified adult day service, which is divided into two categories. One is ADS which includes social and leisure opportunities, and community integration. The second half is vocational habilitation for those interested in work experience but may need assistance in finding a job or developing the necessary skills.
Vocational experience includes volunteering at area parks, the humane society, even helping the city with mailings or sorting plastic caps to be recycled to make park benches.
Whatever needs doing, clients are more than wanting or able to help out explained Schiavone; however, these tasks and accomplishments are just a small fraction of what they tackle daily. Such as Blakeley who is currently working on integration into the community but plans to continue as an administrative assistant for Art Sense.
Blakeley shared his experiences in radio, that being the WCSM Radio’s weekly “Country Leisure” show for 33 years.
“I’m still going to maintain my job, and still do it to the best of my abilities,” said Blakely, who is excited about the move as he did not want the world to pass him by instead, “I took the bull by the horns and the rest is history.”
Art Sense clients are paid minimum wage for their work explained Schiavone and should a client need physical support to complete a task, accommodations are made.
Again, the key here is choices so a client may choose the same job every day while others may see what other options are available. Tasks they find meaningful, enjoy, have an interest in and what one may describe as empowering given the power of choice.
“The first time I walked in, I knew this is where I want to be,” said Blakely who takes pride in his work, and wants the community to know they are more than welcome to stop in and see what they do.